National Geographic : 1980 Nov
The Chairmanof the Board tells "TheChairmanof the Board" why it's time for Imperial. Lee lacocca talks toFrankSinatra about the future ofluxury cars in America. On July 18,1980 Frank Sinatra,the entertain ment industry's "Chair man of the Board," joined Lee A. lacocca, Chairmanof the Board of The New ChryslerCorporation, at the first public exhi bition ofAmerica's newest luxury car,the 1981 Imperial. This new Imperialis an unusu ally timely automobile. In price and size it is comparable to Cadillac's Eldoradoandthe Continental Mark VI. But it is a newer auto mobile than its competitors and,in significantways, it is substantially differentfrom eitherof them; it is these differences that make the Imperial the unique automobile it is. After opening the exhibition and viewing the new Imperial,Sinatra and lacocca spent some time dis cussing whatAmerica needs in a luxury cartoday and how this new Imperialfills those needs. Sinatra: When you build a luxury car, where do you start? How do you lay down the specs for a new luxury car? Iacocca: You try to build a luxury car that's better than the competition. Say you take your leading potential competi tpr and you might say, 'I'm going to give a customer 105 percent of this guy's riding comfort. Or 100 percent of his cornering ability.' You can set your sights on what the people are already buying. Sinatra: Is that what you did with the new Imperial? Iacocca: Sure. But our stan dards for this one were based more on what the people need today than on what the compe- tition is giving them. You know, times have changed in the automobile business. Sinatra:You mean the energy crunch. Iacocca: Partly. That's why today you have to try to build a car that's the right kind of car for now and, hopefully, for tomorrow as well. Now, you've owned a lot of cars. Sinatra: You'd better believe it. lacocca: What do you think today's luxury car should be. Sinatra: I don't know where to start. lacocca: Start with the way it should look. Sinatra:Well, first of all, I'd want it to look simple. I like a clean look. Because I believe that a lot of chrome looks dated. I think things are getting cleaner and simpler looking and that's how it should be. Iacocca: Agreed. That's why we tried to keep the Imperial as uncluttered as possible. Sinatra: It looks rich, Lee.